I'm a penny-pincher. When I was little, every week I went through the Sunday paper and clipped coupons for my mom. Now that I'm grown up and running a household of my own, I have become acutely aware of how much it costs to keep everyone fed and clothed. I almost switched to cloth diapering (not really, but the thought crossed my mind) when I calculated how much diapers for two kids was going to cost per year. Kids are expensive, so anywhere I can save money and not lose quality, I try to do so.
One of the biggest ways that I save money is by buying things second-hand. Toys, clothes, baby gear… I get almost everything used. I shop yard sales, consignment sales, thrift stores, and online classifieds (a lot of areas have Craigslist, Facebook "online garage sales," and where I live in Utah one of the newspapers has a free classified ad website). I understand that some people have an aversion to bringing used things into their homes for various reasons, but for us, it's a great strategy.
Here are five reasons to buy second-hand:
1. It saves money
Kind of obvious, but if you buy things used, you pay less than if you buy something brand new. In my experience, buying used is at least 50% off new prices, and in a lot of cases, I've saved 90% or more off of what I would spend to buy it new. I can think of a lot of things to do with the extra thousand dollars.
2. Kids clothes
Kid's clothes so often get outgrown long before they get worn out. I had over 20 onesies in 0-3 month size when Little Man was a newborn. And while they all got used, he grew out of them in about a month, and most of them were still in perfect condition. All of those were gifts, so I didn't buy them anyway, but as he's grown, the principle has held that the vast majority of his clothes are still in good condition when he outgrows them (even considering the fact that a lot of them are second-hand).
I shop at a semi-annual consignment sale near me where I pretty much outfit him for the coming 6 months each time. A few years ago, I got him a snow bib, coat, gloves, and boots all for $18! I can shop the nice brands and get good quality clothing without spending a fortune. Hooray! And, his little brother is now wearing all those clothes, too. I've hardly had to buy anything this time around.
I don't feel as bad about giving/throwing things away. Sometimes, it's hard to know what toys my kids are really going to love. There are some things that we've gotten a ton of mileage out of and others… not so much. I would feel really frustrated if I had spent a lot of money on something only to have my kids not use it, but if it only cost two dollars to begin with, I can donate it back to the thrift store and happily think to myself that I paid two dollars to rent it for a few months.
Also, since I have boys who love dirt, they can thrash a cheap toy by leaving it in the sandbox for a week, and I don't mind if it's unrecognizable by the end of that time.
4. Second-hand sturdy
If it's lasted long enough to go to a second-hand store unbroken, it's probably pretty sturdy. Again, "gentle" is not a word that comes to mind when describing my two little boys. I need toys that are going to stand up to some rough play. Things will get thrown, smashed, and otherwise pummeled. I like shopping second-hand, so I can get an idea of what something will look like afterit's been broken in.
I feel better about spending money on the things that I really want to buy new. I don't buy everything used. Socks, underwear, crib…those are new. But I don't mind spending money on those when I know I've saved so much on everything else. When I wanted to get cute matching Easter outfits for my boys, I didn't worry about the fact that it was a little frivolous (plus, I got a screaming deal…I can't help myself). We had room in the budget because I spent so little on the other, more necessary things.
I occasionally get to revisit my own childhood when I find awesome toys that I loved as a kid. It's fun and a total time-warp to see my kids discover toys that were such a memorable part of my own childhood.
This article was originally published on Smarter Parenting. It has been republished here with permission.